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Initial Plan Back from Santa Maria

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Mar 7th, 2013, 06:49 AM
  #1
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Initial Plan Back from Santa Maria

We sent Santa Maria the places we wanted to visit and the number of days in each. We have had a couple emails with Karene. Gave them some background info on how we like to travel, slowly and leisurely, suggested hotels and types we prefer. Told them we do not want to do hiking. We asked for additional ideas for places to add on to visit. Mrauk U is still closed per Santa Maria.

What we got back is a completely different itinerary, cutting back the number of days we want to stay in places. For example we wanted 4/5 days Inle Lake and they gave us 2. Bagan was reduced also to 2 days. They suggested Kalaw for trekking when I said we did not want to hike/trek. I have a feeling they may have sent us a canned tour which we do not want. I had suggested we arrange the places and hotels and then we could work on where we wanted drivers or guides from them. Perhaps this was not clear.

In Yangon the Traders Hotel Club Room is recommended. Anyone stay here?
I did not like their substitution for a hotel in Inle lake. I am suggesting Paramount Inle Lake Resort or Pristine Lotus Spa. Any other hotels suggested?

One place they suggest which sounds interesting is Hsipaw. This would involve a train ride to it. How are the trains in Burma? Has anyone been to Hsipaw?

@kathie, you suggested flying to Yangon and going directly to Mandalay which is what we proposed to SM. SM's itin still has us starting in Yangon for a couple days. I thought I read in one of your TR's that you met their rep at the airport, paid them and flew on to Mandalay. Is this correct? I want to keep Yangon at the end in the hopes that we can make some changes if Mrauk O opens over the next 6 months or so and your reasoning for ending in Yangon makes sense for that reason.

We will send them back our revised itin and highlight the changes. We tend to make our travel plans on our own, and have only worked once, Tonkin in VN, with a travel agency, so this is not a way I generally plan travel.

Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciated.
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Mar 7th, 2013, 08:17 AM
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Why only request itinearies from one travel agency? Why not request itinearies/quotes from more than one?
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Mar 7th, 2013, 08:39 AM
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Sounds like they are trying to give you one of their prepackaged tour. If you did not do any research then you might have followed their advice but luckily you've done yours!

I walk through the Traders in Yangon and I think I had a foot massage there. From my memory it looked a bit dated, sort of 70s like but this was a few years ago.

I would suggest you try and book, or at least get rates online, for some of the hotels yourself. I believe a few now accept credit card and can be booked online. The rest you can get the agent, which ever one you choose, to book for you as well as the airlines.

Don't forget for Inle and Bagan you don't need a guide from a TA. The boat driver in Inle will guide you and the horse cart driver in Bagan will do the same. Your hotels will be able to arrange them for you.

Don't know if you've seen my photos and if you haven't here is the link for it:

http://khun-pook.smugmug.com/Travel/...5798&k=WmqTpVv

Good luck!

Oh I forgot, I like to recommend the balloon ride in Bagan.
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Mar 7th, 2013, 08:43 AM
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I know lots of people get quotes from several TAs. I would prefer not to "shop" TAs if possible. I know it takes time for agents to work up an agenda, check on hotel availability and price it out whether it's canned or an individual one. It also takes my time to respond to another agent. So unless there is a compelling reason to change, at this stage I would like to try and stay with Santa Maria. Obviously if I have problem after problem I would change. I think at this point its just understanding one another. The agent has been very responsive in terms of the timeliness of responses, just missed the boat on what I wanted.
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Mar 7th, 2013, 08:49 AM
  #5
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
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I had a similar issue with SM when I booked a trip with them in 2010 but it was a very short trip and I made some changes which they were happy to make.
I made a tentative enquiry with them last month and they took 2 weeks to get back to me and the itinerary was back to front from what I said I wanted BUT they had some reasons for this and changed things to suit me. However we have since changed our planes and are now going toJapan ( along with everyone else on this board )
SM are rather overwhelmed with all the extra influx in Myanmar right now I think BUT I would use them again as the final trip we did in 2010 was excellent and like you don't want to shop around too much.
Just be firm and clear on what you want ( although you may have to be a tad flexible due to flights schedules etc)
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Mar 7th, 2013, 08:56 AM
  #6
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@Hanuman - my understanding was that the local TA's could get better rates than booking oneself thru the internet. A couple hotels I tried to look at and couldn't find rates, sent off an email and have yet to hear back. But I will keep this in mind.

SM got back to me the day after I emailed them and we have emailed each day, so responsiveness has not been an issue. We can be flexible on days/dates as we have lotsof time.
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Mar 7th, 2013, 09:09 AM
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yestravel - IMO it never hurt to recheck with the hotels directly. I did enquire with Santa Maria when we went and at that time their rates were higher and they tried to push a guide to accompany us which we didn't want. This was several years ago so the info is not current.
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Mar 7th, 2013, 09:23 AM
  #8
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Thanks -- I'll keep checking with the hotels directly. many don't have rates showing yet for 2014. SM had us with guides in their draft itin and we will tell them we don't want them except where we do!
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Mar 7th, 2013, 11:11 AM
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It never hurts to check with the hotels directly, but my experience on our trips was that SM got us better rates. Of course, you are right, I doubt any hotels will show 2014 prices yet. And even the contracts with travel agencies likely won't be finalized until this summer.

Hispaw is a place I would have liked to go to. Trains in Burma are renowned for being uncomfortable rides - people say you feel each rail end/beginning. But some of the rain routes are supposed to be some of the most spectacular in the world.

What I did in working with Santa Maria (and with the few other agents I've worked with in the world was o give them a day by day itinerary with hotels (if I knew what I wanted) and asked for specific suggestions. That way, I didn't have agents veering far from what I wanted, and I do get suggestions for interesting additions.

Most people have not done much research, and agents are accustomed to offering them a pre-packaged (or a variation on that) itinerary as a stating point.

In terms of Inle hotels, you know we loved Inle Lake View.
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Mar 7th, 2013, 11:50 AM
  #10
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@Kathie - we did request Inle Lake View, but was told it is not available. I know all the websites show no rooms available for our dates, but I bet that is more a function of the dates being so far out then the hotel actually being booked already. I also sent an email directly to Inle Lake View, but have not heard back.

In response to SM's propsoal this time we took SM proposed itin and redid it in the same format as their proposal with what we wanted and suggested hotels bolding our changes. Hopefully this next go round will be closer to what we want.

Also, re flying into Yangon first & going directly to our first destination (Mandalay) as u suggested to us. You did this with them, correct? I realize we need to meet them to make payment. I have mentioned it twice and not gotten a response.

Thanks for everyone's ideas, I'm sure this will take time, but will all work out in the end.
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Mar 7th, 2013, 01:34 PM
  #11
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@Hanuman - just looked at our photos -- really nice! Thanks for sharing.
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Mar 7th, 2013, 02:28 PM
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You can also ask SM to put you on a waitlist for any hotel you REALLY want. The hotels I was wait listed for cleared well before our trip, with the exception of a single night in Yangon.
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Mar 7th, 2013, 02:30 PM
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Meeting you to get payment is routine. I expect they don't want to set that up until everything is finalized. I expect they will ask for a wire transfer for part of it. Also, I'm aware that credit cards might be accepted by the time you go, so payment arrangements may be different.
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Mar 7th, 2013, 02:33 PM
  #14
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as always, thanks again, kathie -- your info is so helpful. I will ask about being put on wait list.
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